Black Bean Sauce

This larder staple from Chinese tradition is a quick way of giving complexity to stir-fries and slow-cooked dishes alike. The flavors include deep umami from the black beans, lovely pungency from the garlic and ginger, acidity from the wine, and heat from the chile-infused oil. 

The recipe takes less than half an hour to put together.  

Makes 2½ cups/600 ml 
1½ cups/225 grams salted black beans (see page 105)
1/3 cup/25 grams minced shallots or white onion
About 12 dried red chiles 
½ cup/125 ml peanut, sunflower, raw (not toasted) sesame, or vegetable oil
½ cup/125 ml Shaoxing wine, dry sherry, or sake
1/3 cup/80 ml soy sauce 
3 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
¾ cup/100 grams minced garlic (from 4 medium to large heads) 
2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger

Wash two 1-cup/240 ml and one 1/2-cup/120 ml or five 1/2-cup/120 ml jars and lids in the dishwasher or in boiling water. Set out on a tray. 

Rinse the black beans well in cold water to remove excess salt, drain well, and put in a food processor, along with the minced shallots or onion. Pulse several times, until the beans are broken down to a coarse texture but not to a paste. Set aside.

Break the dried chiles in half and empty out and discard the seeds. Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. When it is hot, toss in the chiles, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook for a minute or two, stirring gently to turn them over and expose all sides to the hot oil, just until the chiles have darkened. (You want their heat to infuse into the oil, but without any scorched bitterness.) Use a slotted spoon or spider to lift the chiles out of the oil, pausing
to let excess oil drain off, and set aside for another purpose or discard.

Add the bean and shallot mixture to the pan and stir gently to blend it
into the oil. When most of the oil has been absorbed by the beans, after 4 or
5 minutes, add the wine, soy sauce, and sugar and stir them into the mixture. Cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, then add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring frequently, until they have softened and the oil has risen to the surface, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared jars. Top with the lids, but don’t tighten them until the sauce has cooled completely. Label with the date and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.

Excerpted from The Miracle of Salt by Naomi Duguid (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2022.